Blank Verse

The development of blank verse may be the result of Renaissance poets imitating classical Latin and Greek poetry where meter was a feature, but rhyme was not. It was introduced into English poetry by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Blank verse is written in iambic pentameter, and the lines may exhibit enjambment, or they may be stop-ended. The structure of blank verse differs from that of rhymed verse. Poems written in blank verse are often divided into "verse paragraphs" of varying lengths, as distinct from stanzas, which usually have regular lengths and are defined by their rhyme scheme and metrical pattern.

A Blank Verse

Iambic feet are standard for this form
And measure five per line when written right.
The use of rhyme is not involved at all,
So verses sound akin to normal speech.
The structure of the form does not rely
On stanzas of a certain length or kind.

Classical Blank Verse

A Saturnalian Blank Verse

The feast of Saturn starts with cries of "Io!"
And follows topsy-turvy for a week.
A master plays the slave for just one day;
The dice box rattles freely all week long.
Presiding over revels is a king
Whose rule is absolute, but not long lived.
A host distributes gifts among his guests,
And clients gift their patrons in return.
The merriment subsides, and toil resumes.
The golden age of Saturn bids adieu.

Aelia: a Blank Verse

The poet Martial wrote an epigram
About a woman's coughing fits and teeth.
The former numbered two; the latter, four.
When all was said and done, the score was tied.
Each hack expelled two teeth till all were gone,
And future coughs could do no further harm,
So Martial counseled her to cough at will...
The story ends, and now you know her plight.

[ back to poetry page ]